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Lost In A Desert World

Creator: Roland Johnson (author)
Date: 1994
Source: Available at selected libraries

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I was bad; I had my bad behaviors up there too. There was some things that I used to do, like striking at the attendants, hitting back at the attendants. I used to. They would make me upset. I would smash a window.


Dr. P. used to suture me up when I bust out the windows; he used to put sutures in me; he was really strict. Somebody got me upset. The mark's not there now. They would suture my wrists, 'cause if they didn't suture that I would bleed to death. I would just smash the window; it would cut my wrists. I remember that every time I used to be punished for something, being on a low grade ward, cleaning up soil, patient feces and stuff.


I would say I'm a person that was lost and lonely and just in a desert world. And no one to talk to. Just out there in a big institution all by myself. All lonely. That's how I'd 'scribe it. I thought I would be there forever. I was kinda thinking that on that issue -- that I would be there, if I didn't stop doing the things that I used to do, I would be there for a long time.


My mother used to come and visit me when the car was working; if the car was broke she couldn't come. She would write letters to me; one of the teachers at school used to read me the letters. My sisters came -- LaVerne came, Bertha May came, Bootsie came. I would spend a pretty good day with them, a whole day, just walk around on the grounds and go to the canteen. We would be having a conversation, just walking around.


My mother said she couldn't believe how skinny I got. I was real thin. "Boy, you amaze me," she says. I went home 'round Christmas and Easter every year. And that would make me feel good. I would stay a couple weeks. My mother said that, "Gee, you talk almost like a white person. Where you get all this 'Thank you' and 'No, thank you' and stuff like that. Boy, they must have taught you something." I tried to tell them what it was like, when I came home for a home visit. But it was horrible to talk about. It was a horrible place, very horrible. I couldn't talk too much any more. It was hard, but I had to go back, finish out my sentence, until they tell me I could go.


In the summertime I saw this young boy get thrown out the window. I saw it 'cause I was in the day room. On some of these low grade wards they had these kind of screens that you can't push out, that you lock with a key. Now this was on a bright ward; they didn't have screens in the window. It happened like three-to-eleven shift; the staff was coming on -- the change of staff; the attendant was doing something. This other person threw him out the window, pushed the person outside the window, all the way out, when the attendants was not looking. I saw that happened. I didn't think that boy would live. There was a solid, a hard solid ground where this person got thrown out the window -- broke his leg and broke his hip. I think that it was just an awful sight to see. I cried 'bout it. We went and told the attendant -- but what more did they do; the damage happened. And they rushed him up into the hospital, got his leg in a cast, and put him in a traction: they put your legs up in the air with rope.


Anybody was bad, if anybody got caught doing something, they get put on a punishment ward and they would stay there til the end of their punishment, for a week, maybe two weeks. I was on the worst punishment ward and I had to do the scrubbing: scrub the benches and scrub cribs and scrub the walls down.


It was horrible. I saw people get knocked -- just hitting them with brooms and mop handles. Their heads would be cut open; they would send them to the hospital with their heads split open; blood would be bleeding; mouth would be all swollen up. And I cried; I really did -- because they couldn't fight for themself. It was horrible.


I wonder why did this go on, why did kept happening? And from the time that I was up there, it still went on; things didn't change any.


Where I was living they would be hitting too -- them big strong boys. It wasn't the attendants that did it; it was the patients: Charles R., Eddie T., and Eddie S., and other people. They would hit them over the head with mop handles and brooms -- whatever they could get their hands on; they would hit them. I never got hit; I got out of that; I hid in the bedroom underneath all the beds down in the rows. They chasing everybody else around; they couldn't catch me. I was very scared. They hit everybody else but they couldn't get me.


They would be going to the hospital with cut heads and sores on the backs and Dr. W. would come around: "What's all these patients being hit for?" And Dr. W. would write out prescriptions for nerve relaxers and Thorazines and stuff like that. The medicine cabinet would be open -- they would have medicine cabinets open, wide open -- and somebody got themselves a bottle of Thorazines, liquid Thorazine, and drunk a whole bottle and got very sick and they put him in the hospital -- they was trying to pump the stuff out of him -- and he died the next day. Lord knows where the attendants was at.

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